The Question of Filial Piety

I had debated with myself whether or not to write this. By writing this, I am opening up and divulging secrets -which probably is only important to me. Still they are secrets.
Reading about children abandoning parents in hospitals and old folks’ homes recently kept me thinking. The newspaper story kept reiterating stories and interviews with old men and women in their 70s and 80s who were uncared for, dumped without a care at hospitals, never to be fetched home again.
I do feel sorry for the old people. Of course, it is terrible to be left alone when one is aging and unwell. And yes there’s bitterness underlying their words. After all, they were the parents who had brought up their children and now this is what they do in return.
And this stirs up the reader’s anger too towards these ‘children’ who are all grown up, married with families of their own. There’s a Chinese saying that goes like this: a parent may be able to take care and bring up 9 children but it is not for sure that the 9 children will be able to care for their parent!
In so many ways, this is becoming true.
And MCA is now asking itself – whatever happened to filial piety? Didn’t schools drum this into kids? Aren’t we Chinese/Asians/Malaysians the filial sort? What happened to THAT?
Let me go out on a limb here.
In the course of interviewing these abandoned old people, did the journalist once ask if these old people did or say anything to their children that made them difficult or horrible to live with? Did these old people honour and respect their own parents? Did they love their children and shower them with affection instead of break into unreasonable threats like ‘respect me because I’m your father’ or ‘because I said so’?
How can a child grow up to be filial when his own parents aren’t filial to his grandparents? How can a child grow up to love and cherish his parents if his parents have never loved or cherished him?
And have you ever wondered how tough it is living with aging people? Their needs are different, yes, but their moods, their sarcasm, their grumpiness – these can suck the life out of any family!
My late maternal grandparents lived with us – that’s my parents and us three sisters. They were suspicious of everything and everyone. My grandfather was not an easy person to live with. He had a long list of what other people must not do in front of him. This included whistling!
And once in his many fits of anger, my very own grandfather had threatened us with a chopper – he wanted to kill us all! I was about 11 then, and my dad herded us all into the master bedroom and locked the door. We were afraid.
Due to that incident, my parents decided that since my grandparents couldn’t live with us, it was best we rented them a room near us and let them live there. My mom cooked and brought meals to them twice a day. They were happy initially but after a while, they decided they wanted to come back to our home again. And so my parents relented and let them come home.
We tried not to enrage our grandparents – my grandma was like a faucet. If we said something that she felt was an insult to her (even though we weren’t even talking about her), she’d start weeping! She would do strange things that made mom livid – like washing her hair with FAB, the clothes detergent although we had shampoo! Hygiene was also not my grandma’s strong points. She would not bathe at all for a few days until we detected it.
But in the end, they were with us till both of them passed on a few years ago.
So I know what it means when we talk about crazy old folks. I lived with them when I was young. I know it’s really difficult. Sometimes I suspected my grandfather suffered from schizophrenia although he was never diagnosed as such. I always admired my dad’s tenacity through it all because it would have been so easy for him to send them to an old folks’ home. They were, after all, his parents-in-law. And my mom was an adopted daughter so really, there weren’t any blood ties. But he stuck through it all, even footing their funeral expenses when they passed away.
So when we talk about filial piety, someone has to get facts right. Ask those kids who’ve ‘abandoned’ their parents and ask them for their side of the story. What made them move away from their parents? What made them make that decision of sending their parents away? It couldn’t have been an easy decision to make. Of course there are those callous sons and daughters who wouldn’t care at all. I’m not siding those people.
If you’ve loved your children and treated them well when they were growing up, there’s no doubt that they will care for you when you grow old.
It is when you were a tyrant to your children when they were growing up, is there any way they wouldn’t be tyrannical to you?
One of the universal tenets is this: treat others like how you would like to be treated. This applies to family relationships too. Treat your children well, teach them well and you won’t be all alone at the end of your life.

3 thoughts on “The Question of Filial Piety”

  1. Food for thought.
    Growing up, Dad always instilled a sense of filial peity in me. Although his own relationship with his mom was not a rosy one, we never missed a reunion dinner with grandma. He also stressed in the importance of Cheng Beng. As long as I remember, unless i was unable to do so, I’d always be back in Ipoh for Cheng Beng.
    My parents were strict disciplinarians bringing us up. They believed in the adage that sparing the rod, will spoil the child. My mom used to whack the crap out of me with a featherduster, yet I still love her.
    Mom also always insisted that we be around and help out with dinner preparations. If we were unable to have dinner with the Family, we better have a bloody good excuse for doing so.
    Leading me to believe that a Family that eats together, stays together.
    My long winded 2 cents worth ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thanks for your longwinded 2 cents worth. I got whacked a lot by my mom with a rotan when I was in primary school. I refused to go to school if my rotan marks show on my legs. But I still had to go or not more whacks! But I love that philosophy. The family that eats together stays happy together. I never quite understood families who take meals separately! No wonder you are such a good boy…like me, I’ve been whacked too many times. In those days, one took it. Now, you can scream child abuse. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Leave a Comment